The nature of war is hardly comprehendible to us students, as we only encounter it on the pages of history textbooks. We think of war as something abstract and can’t imagine what it would be like for people of our age to go out to the battlefield with a rifle in their hands. Yet just 100 years ago it was the cruel reality for students all over the country, including those at Lancing.
The total number of OLs who wore a military uniform during the Great War was 820; of those, 163 were killed as the direct result of war. Forty-one were Colonels and four achieved the rank of General. The loss of these young men was a personal grief to boys in the school. The then-Head Master used to read out the names of those who died but at some point he had to stop because it became unbearable. It is glorious to demonstrate bravery in combat yet there is no denial that their families would rather have them alive than to be left with a medal and a black and white picture. Lancing students supported the war effort outside the battlefield too. Boys gave up their holidays and time in order to work on the school’s harvest camps – a necessity due to food shortages. Most meals were meatless and porridge was by far the most common food. Students who didn’t work on the fields volunteered to help elsewhere. Shoreham Airport, situated next to the College, was used for military purposes and was targeted by the Germans. The Chapel, which could be seen from a considerable distance, was also an easy target, so two planes were used especially to guard it day and night.
As Father Richard rightly said, wearing a poppy for Remembrance is not about heroes. It is about preserving lives at all costs, lives of people like us, young and full of excitement for the future. A future that is made of opportunities and is built upon liberty. The boys who fought in the First World War contributed to that future, to our future: to ensure that their efforts count, it is important that we do our best to preserve it.
Oleg S, Lower Sixth